They give out prizes for a politician’s promise now?
Well it’s not a joke but the award to the US President is easily the most controversial laureate in living memory. Remember some of the others who have won this: Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Clerk for ending apartheid; Mikhail Gorbachev for bringing an end to the Cold War; John Hume and David Trimble for helping bring peace to Northern Ireland.
Oh, and there’s also Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama.
Many commentators have been quick to ridicule the decision. “Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent,” wrote Michael Binyon in The Times, adding the award “risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.”
Some would argue that the rot started two years ago when the peace prize went to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But regardless of your views on climate change, at least Gore and the IPCC had behind them the very clear achievement behind them of helping elevate climate change to the top of the global political agenda.
John Hume shared the prize with David Trimble in 1998 after they had dragged the Catholic and Protestant communities, complete with their extremist wings, to the negotiating table to conclude a deal on Good Friday of that year which restored self-government to Northern Ireland. Hume had started the process in earnest, risking his life by meeting with Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein to try and talk him and, by proxy, the IRA - into ending a bloody campaign of terrorist resistance to British rule in the province. Hume is an unassuming, poorly-presented, hard-working politician who, through his talks with Adams, laid the groundwork for ending a conflict that killed more than 3000 people.
And Trimble, then the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, clung to his leadership by his fingernails through the process amid dissent from his party membership. There was bravery from both the Irish and British governments in the peace process but it was Hume and Trimble who led from the trenches and ended the cycle of ongoing violence in Northern Ireland.
Obama hasn’t even been in office a year and hasn’t achieved anything like their achievements. Or Gorbachev’s. Or de Clerk’s or Mandela’s.
US film maker Michael Moore, hardly known for his sympathies with enemies of Obama, has written an open letter to the US President following the awarding of the prize. “The irony that you have been awarded this prize on the 2nd day of the ninth year of our War in Afghanistan is not lost on anyone,” writes Moore. (Actually, that one point had eluded me, mate, but that’s by the bye.) He recounts some of Obama’s achievements:
you admitted to the Iranians that we overthrew their democratically-elected president in 1953, you made that great speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, you’ve eliminated that useless term “The War on Terror,” you’ve put an end to torture—these have all made us and the rest of the world feel a bit more safe considering the disaster of the past eight years.
And he adds this as a postscript:
... the very fact that you’ve offered to walk into the minefield of hate and try to undo the irreparable damage the last president did is not only appreciated by me and millions of others, it is also an act of true bravery. That’s why you got the prize. The whole world is depending on the U.S.—and you—to literally save this planet. Let’s not let them down.
Obama says he doesn’t feel he deserves “to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honoured by this prize”, but adds “I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honour specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes”.
The US President is without question a brilliant mind, a great speaker, and has a gift for influencing people. He has reshaped world opinion of America and his mere presence in the Oval Office means the world can look to Washington for leadership on tackling global problems.
Yet he is now facing a massive challenge in Afghanistan, where US forces are suffering increasingly heavy losses and losing control of increasingly large areas. The Taliban insurgency is gaining momentum there. Obama may have to make decisions there that might seem incompatible with a prize that recognises peace. Obama may even have to escalate the conflict to win it.
This is a prize awarded for promise, not deeds. Politicians are not known for delivering on promises. Obama may be an unusual class of politician, but he has a long way to go before he really breaks that old mould.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…